Wednesday 11 April 2012

Britain: More training but less cycling

On the back of an announcement of more money for child cycle training, the Department for Transport in the UK has released a report titled "Cycling to School - A review of school census and Bikeability report data". Sadly, this confirms what I wrote last November about how an emphasis on Bikeability and Cycling Proficiency have failed British cycling.

The new figures shows again how the rates of children cycling to school remain extraordinarily low in the UK. The change over the period of 2006 to 2011 is given as -0.01% for 5-10 year olds and +0.06% for 11-15 year olds. This is also presented as a change of 0% for all ages combined.

I have no doubt at all that those who train child cyclists in the UK do so with the best possible motives. However, effort shouldn't be confused with success. Sadly, the effort of the people doing the training is being squandered on something which looks good in press releases ("More money for school cycle training" !) but doesn't actually make any real difference. While British children are being trained in large numbers, this does not lead to them cycling. Conditions on the streets of the UK simply remain too unpleasant and too dangerous for more than a very small proportion of parents to allow their children to cycle.

There are also new figures for the whole population's cycling activity. These show that the average of 16 bicycle trips per person per year in 2006 has changed to an average of 15 bicycle trips per person per year in 2010.

Both these sets of figures come from a time when many people in the UK have spoken of growth in cycling. While growth is often reported in the UK, those reports are often not based in fact. There's a long history of unsubstantiated claims.

This is not real progress. Real growth can be measured and would appear in these figures. All that we've been able to see for many years in the UK is a change in the least significant digit of a small number, and these new figures again show a continuation of the same statistical noise as I wrote about in 2010.

For comparison, the Dutch population makes on average about 0.8 trips by bike per day, which is equivalent to about 220 trips per person per year. The UK's figures are far lower and as you can plainly see, it's not only children who rarely cycle in the UK, but adults also find the conditions for cycling unpleasant. In the UK, "cyclists" continue to cycle, while the majority of the population continues to think it is too dangerous to cycle.

When even many campaigners in Britain continue not to ask for enough and don't aim at the right people to make a real difference, it's hardly surprising that the government doesn't do so either. To know what is really going on, campaigners need to become less easily satisfied and more critical of claims that cycling is growing.

If you look at the figures for cycling over time, it is very easy to see that the UK has not developed a set of policies which have led to a real increase. It is important to recognize this truth, not to imagine that a non-existant cycling revolution is taking place, not to believe deliberately confusing hype and not to look in the wrong direction for solutions. Rather, it is important to acknowledge the facts for what they are. Yes, it's unfortunate that cycling has stagnated at a very low level. However, by acknowledging this fact, there is a base to work from. What's more, by accepting properly gathered statistics, there is a yard-stick against which any future progress can be measured.

I took a cycling trainer course when I
lived in the UK. Unfortunately we
were told we had to advise children to
hug the kerb putting them in danger.
That's why I never trained children.
For cycling to grow, real change is needed. An emphasis on "soft measures" such as training has failed in the past and will continue to fail in the future. Cycle training and marketing of cycling are but a small part of what is required. These measures do not work in isolation from changing the streets for the simple reason that they do not solve the problems that people face when they try to cycle.

There will be no real increase in cycling in Britain until real funding is provided, excuses stop being made, and the country starts to copy the best parts of the best examples without misunderstanding the intent. This is the only way in which the conditions which can result in real mass cycling can be created.

Update 2013
My attention has been drawn to a very interesting graphic from Joe Dunckley showing the impact of cycle training on the frequency of cycling in the UK.

The data came from Transport for London's Attitudes to cycling report and shows that after they've had cycle training people are as likely to cycle less as they are to cycle more.

More on exaggeration and broken promises. And as for cycling to school, even pre-schoolers can be seen riding their own bikes to day-care in the Netherlands. From an average age of 8.6, very nearly every Dutch child rides independently. See also the Cyclists in the City blog for another view of the same figures, while Joe Dunckley provides a humourous take by pointing out that "press releases announcing the annual funding for cycling training that they've been funding for decades now outnumber actual cyclists".


kfg said...

" . . . the average of 16 bicycle trips per person per year . . ."

The fallacy of suppressing absolute numbers.

This is a favorite among the PR based social planning class, as it is quite easy to make noise look like a substantial signal. A "1000% in risk" may, in fact, mean no measurable increase in risk at all. 10 times nothin' is still nothin'.

Looked at in raw form this is a 999,999 chance of things turning out OK vs. a 999,990 chance in things turning out OK.

This is why you will see such emphasis placed on "if it works for/saves just" one. On an annual basis they may not be talking about even that many.

As I have pointed out before, in the case of the US "bike boom" the per capita numbers are being used to produce it, whereas in reality the absolute number of riders has been in steady decline for decades.

The choir is singing louder to disguise the fact that it has fewer members in the hopes that sheer volume will attract more actual new members to the congregation; rather than patching the church's leaky roof that is driving people away.

Kevin Love said...

More male bovine effluent from the UK. Here in Ontario, all forms of car driving instruction were dropped from secondary schools over 15 years ago as a much-ballyhooed "green" initiative and as a cost-saving measure.

This immediately resulted in the next generation of young adults stopping driving cars, right?

Not so much. They seem to have gone out and got the training on their own. Seems that if people want to do something they will even pay for training in that activity. What a surprise!

All sarcasm aside, there is one and only one thing that results in mass cycling: Infrastructure that makes cycling the fastest, easiest and most convenient means of getting from A to B for all the destinations in people's lives.

Guess what! If driving cars is the slowest, hardest and most inconvenient mode of travel, people will not drive cars, no matter how much training they have.

Martin. M said...

When my dad started work in the fifties in England at the of start of british car production, the factories were surrounded by bicycle parking. When cars started to become mass produced the parking spaces were full of cars and many people gave up cycling.
There were no campaigns like in the Netherlands during the seventies at the height of road fatalies to encourage cycling. So generations have been lost. Infrastructurte is certainly the key but creating a cycling culture is important too. Something that doesn't happen overnight.

artur said...

I've been following your blog with great interest. I've learned quite a lot about the reasoning behind cycling infrastrucure.

Now I must say I disagree with this bashing on cycling education. I've seen one post akin to this - but a lot less polite - on Copenhagenize and was quite dismayed too.

Why should education/training and infrastructure be viewed and treated as opposite concepts? Why should we pick one of the two and give up on the other?

Perhaps you can enlighten me, but so far this doesn't seem to make any sense - sorry.

I know the Netherlands invest a LOT on cycling infrastructure, with excelent results. But I also know the Netherlands invest a LOT on traffic/cycling/whatever education from a very early age too. That would indicate that Dutch authorities don't support the infrastructure-education dichotomy. Which makes a lot of sense to me.

David Hembrow said...

Artur: I'm not "bashing" training. My position is clear: those who work on training work very hard at it, and it may well be done to a high standard. However, it is important not to confuse effort with results. For sixty years, Britain has emphasized soft measures such as training over hard measures such as building infrastructure which makes cycling safer. The result has been a relentless decline in cycling, not because of the training, but because of the lack of other measures.

Cycling campaigners cheer loudly each time that the government makes repetitive announcements about how much funding is given to training, but this simply makes it easier for government to do nothing.

Paul Martin said...

We have the same problem here in Australia, David. Lots of noise about 'cycling booming' when what is really occurring is a small increase in cycling for sport and no change in cycling for any other reason.

While the absolute figures are indeed increasing over the years, it has not increased at the same rate as population growth... so, in fact, cycling has been stagnating and even decreasing!

Cycling Advocacy organisations just don't get it and they trumpet how wonderful things are when they're thrown scraps of spending or vaguely positive figures. Sadly they're not critical and don't really look at what the figures mean. Just because a number is bigger today than it was 20 years ago is rather meaningless without putting it into context.

As long as this continues, cycling will not change at all...

Koen said...

Oh if Britain just had cycling provisions like over here in the Netherlands! I would love to explore London or the British countryside on my bike.... or any other city in Europe, for that matter, but as it is, I think I'll forego for another decade just now.
So I guess cycling provisions could stimulate tourism as well. Any thoughts on this?

David Hembrow said...

Koen: Yes, there are definite tourism benefits. In fact, the last post on this blog touched on this. Also, two years ago I wrote about how the knooppuntennetwerk generates a profit.

christhebull said...


have you ever read Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science? Although it primarily concentrates on statistics in the context of clinical trials, there are several points that are relevant to the cycling revulsion - whoops - revolution.

For example, he says that in a clinical trial, if one wants a favourable result for a new drug (but doesn't care much for medical ethics), no attempt whatsoever should be made to chase up those who drop out, as they will nearly always be suffering worse side effects or may even have died. Likewise, if one was conducting a sociological study of new commuter cyclist's satisfaction levels over time along with any incidents, those that drop out of the trial are far more likely to have given up cycling and will be driving or taking the bus instead.

(Freewheeler has written previously about the "churn rate" of cycling, it being, in the UK, the transportational equivalent of a part time job at McDonalds for most people who try it)

Goldacre also says that if you torture the data and do lots of tricks in spreadsheets, even if the overall result of a clinical trial is that a new drug performs worse, you can nearly always get something positive out of it, such as that a cancer drug gives improved results for a particular age group / ethnicity / etc. With cycling, you might find that a certain ethnic group had seen a "massive increase" in cycling. This would be in line, of course, with an increase of that ethnic group's population. You could probably say more university students cycle now than 50 years ago for the same reason.

Something you have pointed out before is that cycling appears to be booming every single year and yet modal share is still about 2% in the UK, because of simple seasonal variation. Saying cycling is booming because of a seasonal trend when no year on year rise exists is as silly as looking at the sales of a supermarket and thinking that sales of Pimms were booming and that one day it would overtake every other drink, simply because you were selling several times as much in June than in January. One would then project sales of Pimms upwards exponentially to, say, 20% of total off licence sales, wait a few years, and then wonder why it was still less popular than Smirnoff.

Also, we have to remember that if the risk of developing a medical problem doubles from naff all, it is still naff all. The same applies to cycling modal share.

Finally, can I just say that the Cycling Proficiency test I did at junior school would NOT prepare one to cycle in the Netherlands, let alone the UK. It consisted of signalling and manoeuvring at a minor T junction, and nothing else - no roundabouts, no traffic lights. See this video from markenlei to show the far more comprehensive solution in the Netherlands where the funding of cycle training is not just a way for Whitehall to fob cycle campaigners off under the pretence that something is being done.

christhebull said...

Oops - I didn't manage to add the link. Here's markenlei's video of cycle training in the Netherlands.

David Hembrow said...

Chris: I've not read the book, but it sounds interesting.

As it happens, I featured Mark's video (and another one) in a blog post from a couple of years ago. It's one of several posts tagged "training".

artur said...

Hi again David, and thanks for reacting.

"Artur: I'm not "bashing" training."

I'm glad you're not! It did sounded like that to me, perhaps because I'm not a native speaker.

"The result has been a relentless decline in cycling, not because of the training, but because of the lack of other measures."

Thanks again for making this point a lot clearer, at least to me.

Could you some day please write something on the role of Dutch cycling education and traffic education in general? Since I saw this video (link below) I got the impression that the Dutch take education just as seriously as they take infrastructure. And I feel education on this high level MUST make a positive and powerful impact in the way these youngsters are going to drive later on too. You must know better, since you are an expert AND you live there.

David Hembrow said...

Artur, I don't cover training often because it is simply not nearly so important as infrastructure. When countries like Britain prioritize training over safe infrastructure the result is always a very low rate of cycling. On the other hand, the Dutch have very much prioritized infrastructure over training, and the result is the highest cycling modal share in the world.

Training in schools is not funded from the cycling budget, but is part of the curriculum in schools and is funded by the education budget (it also relies on volunteers to help with the practical lessons). What you see in the video is the cycling part of what is not really specifically cycle training, but general traffic education.

There is no adult cycle training in the Netherlands at all, except for that offered to immigrants from places where people don't cycle. This is regarded as help with integration, and again does not come from the cycling budget.

However, I have written several posts about cycling education, including one post which embedded that same video and included more details.

Unfortunately, I think Mark's video has taken on a life of its own, and is being used out of context in some quarters as "evidence" that the Dutch "take training seriously". However, this is largely a matter of people trying hard to see what they want to see, and what supports their existing point of view, in a video which was actually made simply to be descriptive of the process.

Videos can be hugely popular, but they are prone to this sort of misunderstanding.

christhebull said...

@David - obviously the Dutch aim for, and are generally achieving, the highest standards in regards to cycling, and the standard of education is part of this.

I think much of the appeal to politicians is that training is an easy top down decision - department splits £x million between local authorities to provide training, and as a result xxx,xxx children are trained. The input is money and the output is a measurable amount of training, which seems worthwile as it fits into the whole (traditional) road safety agenda without forcing politicians to think about awkward stuff like peak oil and the need to reduce car dependency.

I have just realised that cycle training is a bit like giving aid to poor African or Asian countries where government aid of £x million will provide xxx,xxx children with mosquito nets; in the sense that both cycle training and aid are worthy activities undertaken by well meaning people, and they will provide some noticeable benefit to the children involved, they are useless as a long term plan without being part of a far more comprehensive plan to improve conditions for cycling; or in the aid example the economy as a whole. In both cases, the amount actually spent sounds impressive but is triumphed by spending on motorised transport or the military.

In both cases it is necessary to both work to improve conditions on the ground, and challenge the power structures themselves, whether it is the car industry and its lobbying power that leads to huge spending on roads and a piffling amount left over for shared use pavements; or the World Bank and other financial institutions.

OldGreyBeard said...

Perhaps the situation would be even worse without Bikeability. Another way of looking at it is that Bikeability is holding the line at an, albeit, low level.

The report does actually say in para 1.2 that:

”with the existing data , it is not possible to present in a statistically meaningful way the impact of Bikeability cycle training on levels of cycling to school due to the absence of a robust comparison group”.

I would conclude from that that we should all be wary of reading too much into the figures.

What is clear is that there is a demand for Bikeability. My daughter will get her training next week at school and I’m sure that the sessions will be well attended. Will this translate into more cycling to her school? The evidence of the past leads me to doubt it. All the children in the years above her have been trained but very few cycle to school. Probably less than 0.1%. The reason? Parents will not let their children cycle on the roads.

So we have a clear demand for training will implies a demand to cycle but the infrastructure is not capable of meeting that demand.

Will my daughter cycle to school? Well possibly if she is accompanied since about 2/3 of the route is off road and it will save time.

Now I just need to work out how to fit a rack to her bike to carry all the stuff children need to take to school.

To sum up I think that demand for Bikebability expresses an unmet demand to be able to cycle around the towns where we live. This may not be great but is a whole lot better than there being no demand at all.

artur said...

Hi David, and thanks again.

I'm willing to believe that infrastructure IS actually much more important than education for the specific purpose of making cycling as transportation appeal to the masses - one of the main reasons being the concept of "subjective safety" you described on that excelent article I've been recomending o friends.

I've been learning a lot from your blog and I'd like to sincerely thank you for that.

I stil get the impression that you express some need do deny the relative value/importance of education/training. I'll elaborate.

You implied that the Dutch don't take training as seriously as some people (me included) think. As proof of that, you say traffic education is not funded from cycling budget. Further you say there is no adult training but for outlanders.

As I see it, those would be the very clear signs that Dutch take education SUPER seriously. Of course they don't need to train adults - everybody has been already trained in school, that training was very good, and it has been payed from the education budget, so that the cycling budget can be channeled to physical facilities! Then they go further and offer training to the adult foreigners - beacause they are the only adults that actually need it.

The fact that it's traffic education and not only cycling education is a plus point to me. It certainly leads to children becoming better drivers (even better citizens) of whatever vehicle they eventually choose to drive when they grow up - with or whithout a motor.

Peter Clinch said...

The usefulness of training, from my perspective as a Cycling Scotland accredited trainer who's actually Out There Doing It...

David is, IMHO, pretty much right. That's not the same as "training is no good", because it's (again IMHO) useful for that small proportion who will go on to join people like me as cycling enthusiasts, who are quite willing to cycle on roads in motor traffic. As well as giving that rather select group a better start it may even increase its size a little, but it's not going to revolutionise cycling in the UK because it's not going to show lots of people that cycling is a safe, normal, easy path of least transport resistance.

It's not going to do the above anyway, but it really doesn't stand a chance of even making a start while so much of the training literature (and in many cases, the efforts of instructors) indirectly emphasizes how dangerous cycling apparently is. After all, you need to dress up like the Yellow Power Ranger to do it, don't you?

Training is useful in the current UK situation because with no choice but sharing the road with motor traffic you do need to know what you're at if you do it. But only a very small number will make the choice to do it. Training serves these people well, but it will not create a mass cycling culture.

A telling point is my Dutch wife cycled regularly for transport for about 30 years before moving to the UK. In all that time she never saw herself as "a cyclist"; some distinct class. But in the UK being "a cyclist" means being a slightly eccentric enthusiast, not someone who just wants to get from A to B. Training folk means the enthusiasts will do better at getting from A to B, but not that lots of "normal" people will be joining them.

Unknown said...

David - my experience of cycling in Berlin (three years) Paris (one year) and on holidays across the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden is that the reverse is also true, ie if you invest in infrastructure, you simply don't need "training", leafletting (of HGV drivers), promotion, and cycle "maps" of safe routes, as people simply see how safe, easy and "normal" cycling is from the sheer numbers of other people doing it, on segregated cycle lanes, and locking up their bikes in huge numbers on the street outside shops and cinemas, and need no further encouragement.

Training, advertising et al is a a huge (although not hugely expensive, naturally) red herring, in my opinion.

Kim said...

As a qualified cycle trainer, I agree whole heartedly, it is pointless increasing the amount of training for children if we are not going to make the roads safe for them to cycle on. You can train them all you like, but if they and/or their parents don't feel it is safer to ride on the roads, they are not going to cycle.

Sadly this is something which the avid cyclist who dominate many of Britain's cycle campaign groups fail to understand. Thankfully there is a glimmer of light in the darkness with the emergence of grass roots campaign groups such as Cycling Embassy of Great Britain and Pedal on Parliament in Scotland, which give hope for the future.

Koen said...

I think cycle training IS important, to complement infrastructure. I'm sure you'll all agree. It would generate a lot of protests if the budgets for traffic training on Dutch schools were suddenly canceled. But yes, it's useless of course without proper infrastructure. My guess is that good infrastructure accounts for 90 to 95% of cycling safety, and the training and skill for the rest of it. So I agree with David's point that promoting cycle skills and traffic training is useless if not backed by solid investments in infrastructure. When will city planners finally understand that investing seriously in cycling infrastructure actually SAVES a lot of money because of less congestion, better health, livable cities etc etc...? It won't help if cyclists are content with small measures, either. In Dutch they call that 'een zoethoudertje': something to keep the kids sweet/calm.

Peter Clinch said...

"My guess is that good infrastructure accounts for 90 to 95% of cycling safety"

I don't think it's that simple. To an enthusiast steeped in the mysteries of vehicular cycling (which you can get in part through training), infrastructure is often an impediment to progress, but the point is that enthusiasts are relatively thin on the ground and until the perception of danger changes you will not get many more cycling.

And it's a lot more people cycling that really gets you the safety increase, as well as congestion reduction, quieter urban spaces etc. etc.

In the UK the actual dangers of cycling (in terms of serious accidents per distance traveled) are slightly lower on average than being a pedestrian: it's actually pretty safe, even though there's a way to go to catch NL. However, the public perception (backed by research at Univ. of Lancaster IIRC) of cycling safety is it's very poor.

Infrastructure safety boosts will at least sometimes be largely indirect. Ride in a rural spot in NL with no infrastructure (say, like this) and your encounters with cars will, I suspect be very different to many similar encounters in the UK where it is the driver being used to bikes that appears to make the difference. Another part of the problem is that unless you do it properly the perception of safety goes up while the actual safety goes down...

David Hembrow said...

Peter: Koen's guess was quite accurate. In reality, according to a presentation yesterday, 97% of cycling funding in NL is spent on infrastructure.

As for your example rural spot, you clearly don't understand why it is so different in feel to what you think is a "similar" road in the UK. However, it is different. Very different. And this difference comes from deliberate policy and planning which keeps cars off such roads and which has no equivalent in the UK. It is often impossible to make direct journeys on minor roads in the countryside.

As for your conclusions - given that you based them on a misunderstanding of priorities in funding and policy and an error of observation in understanding what the roads you were riding on actually were, it's hardly surprising that your conclusions are also wrong.

The Dutch are very clear. Cycling safety comes from segregating cyclists from safety. The principles of sustainable safety are designed to minimise conflicts between different modes, and that is the route to not only the best safety figures in the world, but also to the degree of subjective safety required to make everyone into a cyclist.

Peter Clinch said...

"Koen's guess was quite accurate"

Koen's guess was about accounting for safety, your figure is about cost of infrastructure. The two are not the same but your comments suggest they are.

There may be a policy that keeps cars off those roads, but I still met cars on those roads, "impossible" or not (in fact it was the case that I'd assumed I was on a fietspad until I started meeting cars...). And when I did the way the motorist typically behaved was different (and pleasantly surprising) to what I'd have expected from my UK background.

"Cycling safety comes from segregating cyclists from safety". Well, maybe they think that, but when I have to mix it with cars in NL (and I often do when fietspads cross motor roads) I am (a) clearly not separated and (b) am clearly treated quite differently to the UK. Such as routinely being given way to even when the car is clearly given the right of way by the road markings. That is not segregation on my side, but a side effect of segregation that has made cycling popular enough that I am noticed when I am /not/ segregated.

David Hembrow said...

Peter, many people form misconceptions about the Netherlands when they've only been here on holiday, and I'm afraid you're one of them.

A holiday can easily give a wrong impression of any place for a lot of reasons, including that when on holiday you tend to avoid peak times and that most places you might visit on holiday are not where there are most cars. People have a tendency to extrapolate from holiday experiences and to think that they understand countries as a result.

Dutch people often express an opinion that British drivers are better than Dutch drivers. They include in their observations that British drivers obey the law better and sometimes even conclude that this is due to the laws being more strictly enforced in the UK than they are in the Netherlands.

You probably see it otherwise, but in both cases such opinions are the result of people having had a nice time on a short holiday and thinking that the country they visited matches the impressions that they made.

Spend just a few days in the UK, cycling around on rural roads in Northumberland or the very North of Scotland, for instance, and you'll probably not notice that drivers behave aggressively. In such places, I've had many British drivers give way to me when they don't have to, or pull into passing areas on narrow roads rather than try to skim past me.

I lived most of my life in the UK and have now lived in the Netherlands for nearly five years. That's plenty of time to lose any rose-coloured spectacles that one might have owned. My impression now is that British and Dutch drivers are in fact very similar. Both groups try to get away with breaking some laws, and both groups adhere quite well to some other laws. When we visited the UK for a week last year (driving, not cycling), we had no problems at all with the behaviour of British drivers.

The main difference when cycling is that the indiscretions of Dutch drivers very rarely impinge on cyclists. This is for the very simple reason that in the Netherlands, drivers are almost always segregated from cyclists. Were this not so, then the experience would be very similar, as would the cycling modal shares.

Rural roads in the Netherlands are not the same as rural roads in the UK for one reason, and that is that conflict has largely been engineered out of them. This has mainly been achieved by removing cars - that's why you thought you were on a cycle-path. Rural roads here are pretty much empty, while the motorways are full. There's a reason. Low speed limits and restrictions on possible routes make driving on the rural roads slow compared with the motorways. Of course you can meet some cars, as these roads do still provide for access to those properties which lie on them. However, these aren't people who are using the roads to quickly get between two other completely unrelated places. That makes a difference. Please read all of the posts which explain how this works.

One difference I will give you. Due to the fact that Dutch drivers are almost all cyclists as well, and due to all forms of sport cycling being extremely popular here not only as participatory events but also for spectating, the average Dutch driver has some idea that stopping and starting is not something that cyclists like to do. As a result, they may well cheer you on if you're going at a good pace, and they'll probably try not to slow you down even if you're not going so quickly. This, combined with drivers often not being sure in advance which way the priority on a junction lies, is the reason why there is a tendency to give way when they should not.

Personally, I find this hinders about as often as it helps, because when I've adjusted my speed so that I'll pass safely behind a car, and the car driver sees me coming and slows down further to let me pass in front, as often as not we both end up coming to a near standstill.

Peter Clinch said...

My first reality check on NL cycling was an article in an early VeloVision (#9, "the land of bikes") written by a NL resident Dutchman pointing out that the degree of segregation was not as high as many outsiders assumed (and that it's not all good where you have it)... When I've been over I've not seen anything that really contradicts what he had to say

"Rural roads here are pretty much empty, while the motorways are full...". Same as here, if you're looking at roads as small as the one I took my picture of, which is why NCN routes tend to follow back roads like that: they're quiet. But they're not deserted, because (as you say) motorways don't serve e.g. farms, just like they don't in rural NL. But they're quiet in the UK for just the same reasons: they're a lousy way to get fast from A to B unless A and B are very small and not on many other roads. You get problems in places like Highlands because there aren't many roads except the major ones, but elsewhere the small stuff remains small and quiet.

Segregation without big numbers doesn't do much: things like the MK Redways and Stevenage cycle paths show that. CTC info shows that, irrespective of infrastructure, accident rate inversely correlates well with numbers.

Infrastructure is, I agree, going to be a major player in getting numbers up, but all the while you have right of way conflicts between the two systems you've got potential problems. MK Redways show that if the drivers aren't expecting the bikes they'll still be hitting them where the two inevitably cross.

Also, remember my experiences of NL are informed when I'm there by a native guide, my wife, who spent 30+ years riding around the place as her basic transport before coming to Scotland. So it's not just a couple of holidays, and because my family provide other agendas than being a tourist I'll sometimes be riding at times and places that typical tourists won't (my first trip, around suburban Amsterdam in the early evening to call on pals of my wife, for example, later testing 'bents in all the circumstances my wife could find within a few hours of Ligfietscentrum). Does that give me a perfect understanding? Of course not, but that doesn't mean all the numerous cars I've met on Dutch roads were figments of my misunderstanding!

David Hembrow said...

Peter, you clearly have formed an opinion about the Netherlands and clearly you're sticking to it. I am quite sure you are wrong in many aspects of this, but I beginning to think you're not open to reasoned argument. It's rather tedious to have to continue to point out the same things, and to continue to get replies which suggest you've not taken the time to check the links that I've provided.

Stevenage, and even more so Milton Keynes, are really not such great comparisons. As I've pointed out before, Melvin M. Webber, famous for his car centric designs, was referred to as "the father of the city" for a reason. Milton Keynes is a very car oriented city, and it should be no surprise that the car is the mode of choice for people who live there. I've cycled in MK, and didn't much enjoy it. Bad maintenance, bad signing, almost no consideration of social safety, too many blind corners, un-necessarily steep slopes and badly designed junctions with far too many reasons to give way to motor vehicles, not to mention at least one cycle-path which ended with steps.

Milton Keynes is a complete red-herring. Worse than irrelevant. It has nothing to do with why cycling in the Netherlands is popular and safe while cycling in the UK is unpopular and comparatively unsafe.

Right of way conflicts can be reduced, and are reduced in the Netherlands. This is achieved by making routes for cyclists different to those for drivers.

This is why cyclists meet fewer traffic lights than do drivers.

When drivers and cyclists take different routes, numbers don't matter much. When there is little conflict, there is little chance for crashes to occur.

Where routes are not separated, there are ways of creating junctions which remove conflict. For example, underpasses and simultaneous green junctions.

Finally, just because someone is Dutch, that doesn't mean they understand all of this any more than because someone is British they will understand everything about technical aspects of things in the UK. In fact, most people have never thought about it.

Koen said...

Oh but David, I think Peter does have a point in stating that there is safety in numbers. Obviously, as can be seen in the Netherlands and in Copenhagen for instance, in places where there are many cyclists, drivers get used to take care around them, when driving and when opening car doors. If only to protect their precious metal, for they know one of them could pop up any second. It's just how do you get these high numbers of cyclists? I see no other way than investing money and making roads safe. Perhaps by starting with connecting back roads and designing out the rat-running. Or a pilot project somewhere. You cannot order thousands of cyclists on the road to make it safe, Peter...
So perhaps safety can be ascribed to:
1: Infrastructure
2-7: infrastructure
8: masses of cyclists and drivers getting used to them
9: cycle training
and 10 all other factors i forgot.
How about that, Peter dan David? I think you both have a point, and that we need an all-inclusive view rather than exclusive. Cheers!

Michel from Norway said...

First, it all start with the children, just take a trip to the Netherland and visit the schools, preschools, primary, secondary, high school, that is what we did through our study tour with David in March, this year, with a group of students from Norway.
Down there, you get a kind of “reality check”, no need for PowerPoint at all!
Thousands and thousands of kids enjoying cycling in their daily life.
Nowhere are children right to mobility so high as it is in the Netherlands, children can embrace and integrate cycling in their daily life as a norm, it is just common.
Some years ago, EU-project TAPESTRY showed that 70 % of the pupils in age 9-13 answered the bicycle was their favourite mode of transport, their wishes are very clear and have to been taken seriously, but despite The Netherlands and Denmark, none of the countries around is working in the right direction.
So, does infrastructure play a major role, of course it is obvious.
Cycling education in the Netherlands? Mostly they just get the right habits by being followed with their parents when cycling to the kindergarten.
Can cycling education help to get kids on the bike, yes but this doesn’t work without sufficient cycling provisions.
With our program “All Kids Cycle” in Norway we experimented that by pointing out the positive side of cycling, the children experience the joy and the freedom of biking and they are biking more and more often.
Within five years, in some of the school, the average of children cycling to the primary schools have been increasing up to 100 %
- Case in schools where 37 % of children in age 9-12 where cycling regularly before and now up to 75 %, but once again either cycling provisions (bike paths, cycling storage) were already in place or they have been considerably improved while we were operating in schools.
In countries like Norway, where the scaremongering propaganda is still getting too much attention (cycling is dangerous, helmet campaign), it’s possible to obtain good results by addressing on the right direction to children, parents and schools but the results will of course be minors where there is a lack of cycling provision.
Back to England, using huge amount to cycling education is just a non-sense when average of kids cycling is 2 %, money just serve organization which employ cycling instructors!
As pointed by David “What not to do!”